September 2013

September 30 – Happy Birthday Johnny Allen

Born in Lenoir, NC in 1904, this hot-tempered right-hander had a knack for long winning streaks until he injured his arm in 1938 and never fully recovered. As a young man, Allen worked as a bellhop. When a guest in his hotel complained he couldn’t get any heat in is room,  Allen was sent to check out the complaint. The occupant of the room turned out to be the great Yankee scout Paul Krichell. Allen told the cold talent evaluator he was a pitcher and after he got the heating problem solved, a grateful Krichell arranged a Yankee tryout for him.

He pitched some excellent baseball for New York in the early thirties. As a 27 year old rookie, he went 17-4 for the 1932 Yankees. After winning 50 games during his four seasons in Pinstripes and fighting with the Yankee front-office about money, Allen was traded to Cleveland, where he promptly won 20 games in 1936 and went 15-1 the year after. At one point over three seasons, Johnny won 27 of 29 decisions with the Indians. It was a good thing too, because he was a sore loser, known to go after both umpires and teammates when he came up on the short end of a close or disputed decision.

After Allen hurt his arm, he was traded to the Browns and then spent some time with Brooklyn, winning 8 of 9 decisions as a Dodger. He ended his career with the Giants in 1944. This made him one of a very few pitchers who pitched for the Big Apple’s three original Major League franchises. He compiled a 142-75 record, lifetime. He was just 54 years of age when he suffered a heart attack and died.

Allen shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1932 NYY 17 4 .810 3.70 33 21 6 13 3 4 192.0 162 86 79 10 76 109 1.240
1933 NYY 15 7 .682 4.39 25 24 1 10 1 1 184.2 171 96 90 9 87 119 1.397
1934 NYY 5 2 .714 2.89 13 10 2 4 0 0 71.2 62 30 23 3 32 54 1.312
1935 NYY 13 6 .684 3.61 23 23 0 12 2 0 167.0 149 76 67 11 58 113 1.240
13 Yrs 142 75 .654 3.75 352 241 68 109 17 18 1950.1 1849 924 813 103 738 1070 1.326
CLE (5 yrs) 67 34 .663 3.65 150 121 25 60 9 6 929.2 905 427 377 36 342 505 1.341
NYY (4 yrs) 50 19 .725 3.79 94 78 9 39 6 5 615.1 544 288 259 33 253 395 1.295
BRO (3 yrs) 18 7 .720 3.21 55 20 15 6 1 4 213.1 186 92 76 20 76 86 1.228
NYG (2 yrs) 5 10 .333 3.74 33 13 13 2 1 2 125.0 125 64 52 10 38 57 1.304
SLB (1 yr) 2 5 .286 6.58 20 9 6 2 0 1 67.0 89 53 49 4 29 27 1.761
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/30/2013.

September 29 – Happy Birthday Dave Silvestri

sylvestriIt was so nice having the Yankees double A farm team a half hour’s drive away from my back door twenty years ago. We’d put our four kids in the minivan and take them to Heritage Park, which was what they called the home field of the Eastern League’s Albany- Colonie Yankees back then and for less than twenty bucks, my family of six would spend an evening watching players we hoped would some day be on the roster of the big league Yankees. And many were, including the core four of Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte and Posada, the Williams boys, Bernie and Gerald, Roberto Kelly, Jim Leyritz, Andy Stankiewicz, Pat Kelly, Sterling Hitchcock and a host of others who eventually got to play in the Bronx.

One of the Albany-Colonie players who I thought might be a future Yankee star was today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Back in 1991, Dave Silvestri was the A-C Yankees starting shortstop and leading home run hitter. He belted 19 round-trippers that year and drove in 83 runs. I was hopeful that Silvestri would turn into a pinstriped version of Cal Ripken, a starting shortstop with lots of pop in his bat. He wasn’t perfect. His defense needed work and he struck out a lot but those were common maladies in younger players. He was certainly the organization’s top prospect at short and he continued to pound the ball at the triple A level.  The parent club was terrible back then and had no good shortstops on the roster. Remember Alvaro Espinosa?

But instead of getting a decent shot to play at the top level, the Yanks treated Silvestri like a yo-yo, sending him up and down repeatedly between their big league and Columbus rosters. He played seven games for New York in 1992, seven more in ’93, a dozen in ’94 and his Yankee career high of seventeen in 1995. Meanwhile, Jeter passed him on the organization’s depth chart for shortstops and the Yankees used up all their options on the guy. For a while, it looked as if he would be groomed to play third base, but in the end, the Yankees traded the then 27-year-old native of St. Louis to the Expos for a minor leaguer named Tyrone Horne. Silvestri told a New York Times reporter he couldn’t wait to leave the Yankees so he could play for an organization that would  finally give him a shot at a regular big league job.

The Expos gave Silvestri that shot in 1996, when he appeared in a career-high 86 games for Montreal. But he hit just .204 during that season and he was released at the end of that year. He continued playing, mostly in the minors for three more years.

Silvestri shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder, this former starting pitcher and this 1967 Cy Young Award winner.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1992 NYY 7 13 13 3 4 0 2 0 1 0 0 3 .308 .308 .615 .923
1993 NYY 7 26 21 4 6 1 0 1 4 0 5 3 .286 .423 .476 .899
1994 NYY 12 23 18 3 2 0 1 1 2 0 4 9 .111 .261 .389 .650
1995 NYY 17 27 21 4 2 0 0 1 4 0 4 9 .095 .259 .238 .497
8 Yrs 181 401 336 42 68 12 3 6 36 4 56 96 .202 .315 .310 .624
NYY (4 yrs) 43 89 73 14 14 1 3 3 11 0 13 24 .192 .315 .411 .726
MON (2 yrs) 125 283 234 28 52 10 0 3 24 4 43 68 .222 .341 .303 .644
TBD (1 yr) 8 14 14 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .071 .071 .071 .143
TEX (1 yr) 2 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
ANA (1 yr) 3 11 11 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 .091 .091 .182 .273
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/29/2013.

September 28 – Happy Birthday Pete Filson

filsonYankee fans heard a lot about Pete Filson in the early eighties. He was a left-handed starting pitcher who had been selected by New York in the ninth round of the 1979 amateur draft. The Yankees assigned him to their Class C Appalachian League team in Paintsville, Kentucky and in 13 starts during the 1979 season he went 9-0 with three shutouts and a 1.68 ERA. The native of Darby, Pennsylvania then proved that first year was no fluke when he followed it up with a 13-9 record in A ball in 1980 and a stellar 17-3 mark the following season.

The question wasn’t would Filson become a winner for New York at the big league level, it was just a matter of when he’d get the chance. But this was the early eighties and the ego-maniacal George Steinbrenner was pretty much dictating the personnel moves made by the Yankee organization. The Boss didn’t get along with Rick Cerone, New York’s staring catcher at the time so he directed the front office to replace him. The Twins’ first string receiver was available but he wouldn’t come cheap. The Yanks had to give Minnesota Filson in the deal.

Filson made his big league debut with the Twins during the 1982 season and spent the next three years pitching out of the Minnesota bullpen. In 1986, he was traded to the White Sox and a year later, he returned to the Bronx as part of the same deal that brought Randy Velarde to the Yankees.

Filson finally got to make his Yankee debut on August 29, 1987 in a relief appearance against the Mariners. He got rocked. He also got lit up in his second appearance against Boston a week later but then settled down and pitched well in his next three. That streak got him his first ever start in pinstripes and he made it a good one, pitching seven scoreless innings against Baltimore and earning his first and only Yankee victory. He pitched well in his next start as well but did not factor in the decision.

Filson turned 29-years-old that year and the Yanks decided to release him at the end of their 1988 spring training camp. He got one more shot at the big leagues in 1990. Filson ended up having a brilliant minor league career, putting together a 95-34 record during his decade pitching on farm teams with a 2.98 ERA. I think the Yanks screwed up his career when they traded him for Wynegar and he ended up stuck in the Twins’ bullpen during his prime. Southpaws did well in the old Yankee Stadium and God knows the Yanks could have used another good lefty starter during those seasons in the early 1980’s.

He shares his September 29th birthday with this former Yankee center fielder,  this former Yankee relief pitcher and this long-ago New York first baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1987 NYY 1 0 1.000 3.27 7 2 3 0 0 0 22.0 26 10 8 2 9 10 1.591
7 Yrs 15 18 .455 4.18 148 34 43 1 0 4 391.2 398 198 182 51 150 187 1.399
MIN (5 yrs) 14 13 .519 3.98 130 24 38 1 0 4 323.0 316 148 143 39 123 164 1.359
KCR (1 yr) 0 4 .000 5.91 8 7 0 0 0 0 35.0 42 31 23 6 13 9 1.571
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 3.27 7 2 3 0 0 0 22.0 26 10 8 2 9 10 1.591
CHW (1 yr) 0 1 .000 6.17 3 1 2 0 0 0 11.2 14 9 8 4 5 4 1.629
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/28/2013.

Grading the 2013 Yankees

newyorker.cover2013 – Mo made it a season to remember but if it were not for “number 42″ it would be one I’d love to forget. Here’s how I grade this year’s New York Yankees:

1B Overbay – B: An emergency signing after Teixeira’s WBC wrist injury, I did not expect much from Overbay offensively so the fact that he produced all those big hits was indeed a pleasant surprise. Still, I think Cashman could have done better than this guy.

2B Cano – A: Just the fact that he was one of the few regulars to stay healthy for the full season made him this year’s Yankee MVP. His offense went up a notch as soon Granderson and A-Rod got back and Soriano was acquired to give him some protection. Definitely the best player on a bad Yankee team and still the best second baseman in baseball, but if the reports are true that he wants $300 million for ten years to remain in NY I would not make the deal.

SS Nunez – C: His offense was horrible at the beginning of the year and then after getting hurt, his bat picked up but his defense went down the tubes. He may have finally convinced Yankee brass he’s not the best choice for Jeter’s successor.

3B Youklis-to-A-Rod – F: Horrible move by Cashman to let Chavez walk and then sign Youklis, bad back and all.

C Stewart & Romine – D -: Another horrible decision by Yankee front office to let Russell Martin go to Pittsburgh and try to save a few dollars at one of the most important positions in all of sports. Though I respect and like the guy a lot, Stewart would have trouble hitting .250 in a Little League. Only bright spot was Romine’s growing confidence at the plate as season went on.

OF Wells – C -: Another poor move by Cashman. When deal was announced and Yankee Media Dept stressed how much of Wells’ salary the Angels would be paying for the next two seasons, I knew what it was all about. Another example of Yanks trying to be clever with their bucks instead of doing what they needed to do to fill holes in their lineup. Wells started out strong but quickly fell back to form.

OF Gardner- B: Second most productive player in this year’s lineup but certainly not a guy who can carry the offense for long stretches and the fact that he’s ending this year on the DL once again is an indication he may be too injury prone to depend on long term.

OF Suzuki – C+ – I didn’t want Yanks to sign this guy for two years but it sounded like they had to, to get him back. Whatever, the reason, he is nothing but a good fourth outfielder at this stage of his career and Yanks already have too many of those.

DH Hafner – D – Again an example of Cashman trying to prove how clever he is instead of truly filling holes in his lineup. Yanks could have re-signed Ibanez or grabbed Soriano from the Cubs much earlier.

Soriano – A-, Granderson- C, A-Rod-C, Reynolds-C+, Nix-B

Starting Pitching – C+: Sabathia had worst year of his career; Kuroda, ended up being the no-better-than .500 winning percentage guy he’s been all along; Hughes was unbearable;  Nova and Pettitte ended up being the two best starters down the stretch.

Bullpen – B+: Mo wasn’t perfect but he was better than good. Robertson was too. Logan did well but should not pitch against righties. Claireborn showed promise, Kelley faded after a strong start and Joba may be ruined forever.

Manager – B: Joe Girardi – I was going to give him an A- but his team folded up on him down the stretch. He does deserve a new contract from the Steinbrenner’s though.

What really bothers me is the fact that no Yankee prospects emerged during a season when doing so was absolutely necessary. Not a single young pitcher or position player in the entire organization took advantage of the bountiful opportunities to step up and fill holes at the big league level.

GM – Brian Cashman – D- – The future is here and it sure don’t look pretty and this is the guy most responsible. The deals he didn’t want to make for the two Soriano’s ended up being two of the better deals the Yankees made since they won it all in 2009.

My final observation: Injuries kept Yanks out of postseason this year. Despite a slew of bad front-office moves, if the Yanks had any combination of Jeter, Granderson and Teixeira in their lineup for a full season they would probably have at least sneaked into postseason with a wild card spot. They should have re-signed Russell Martin and Erik Chavez. CC Sabathia’s drop off was a devastating blow to this team’s starting pitching as was Phil Hughes year-long ineptness and Hiroki Kuroda’s late season collapse. Its now too late to trade Hughes or Joba and Yanks won’t end up getting a draft choice for either.

As horrible as this season was for the Yankees, Yankee fans like myself will always remember it as being Mariano Rivera’s final year in pinstripes. It has been a privilege and an honor to watch this guy get the last three outs of so many Yankee victories for all these years. He was the best closer in baseball during his playing days, the very best there ever was and I honestly feel no one will ever come along who will do that very difficult job any better than this guy has done it for my favorite baseball team. So long Mo! I admired the way you performed on the field and the way you lived your life off of it.

September 27 – Happy Birthday Tal Smith

tal.smithTal Smith applied for his first job in baseball in 1960, when he was 27-years-old. He interviewed for an open position in the front office of the Cincinnati Reds with Gabe Paul, who happened to be the team’s GM at the time. Paul did not hire him. He told Smith the reason was he did not know shorthand, but three months later the eager exec-wannabe returned having mastered the skill and an impressed Paul gave him a job. Thus began a long association and friendship between the two men.

Two years later, Paul was hired as GM of the newly formed Houston Colt 45s and again hired Smith to assist him. Though Paul remained in Texas for just a few short months before accepting the GM job in Cleveland, Smith stayed in Houston for over a decade, serving in a variety of front office positions and gaining a level of knowledge and experience that would make him one of the more respected executives in the game.

Before George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees, he had been very close to purchasing the Indians and during the negotiation process, he had developed a fondness for Gabe Paul. When his offer for the Tribe was refused Steinbrenner called Paul and told him to keep his ears open for news of other big league owners that might want to sell. A few weeks later, Paul called “the Boss” and told him CBS wanted to dump the Yankees.

Though he had been promised the Presidency of the Yankees by Steinbrenner once the deal had been consummated, Paul did not completely trust the new owner. He therefore attempted to staff the Yankee front office with people he could trust and one of the first guys he brought to the Bronx as his de-facto GM in 1973 was Smith. The two men spent the next couple of years engineering a series of trades that brought the Yankees back to postseason play.

I had always thought that the reason Smith left New York to accept the GM’s position with Houston in August of 1975 was that he could not get along with the unpredictable Steinbrenner. As we learned later, Gabe Paul hated working for “the Boss” so I assumed his close friend Smith did as well. But years later, when Steinbrenner passed away, some of the most glowing tributes of him came from none other than Tal Smith. Still working in the Houston front office at the time, he spoke of the Yankee owner’s persistent and unpublicized generosity with all sorts of individuals and causes. The truth probably was that Smith loved the City of Houston, loved the Astros and didn’t at all mind removing himself from a job that had him answering to two egomaniacs in Steinbrenner and Paul.

He would remain associated with the Astros on and off for the next 35 years. He also became a sports industry entrepreneur. In 1981, he formed the Houston-based Tal Smith Enterprises, a firm which specialized in the preparation and presentation of salary arbitration cases. The company has done work for 26 different big league teams.

The only other member of the Yankee family born on this date is this one-time reliever.

September 26 – Happy Birthday Bobby Shantz

One of three pitchers to have played for the Yankees and won the MVP award, southpaw Bobby Shantz was a 24-game winner for the 1952 Philadelphia A’s who thought his career was over the following season when he blew out his left elbow. He suffered through four more pain-filled seasons with the A’s, pitching when he could and gradually regaining arm strength. By the time he was sent to the Yankees as part of a ten-player 1957 pre-season swap, Shantz was ready to resume his career as a starter.

It just so happened that Yankee ace, Whitey Ford, developed his own sore arm in 1957 so when Shantz started that season going 9-1 for New York, he became the toast of the Big Apple. He finished that year with an 11-5 record and led the league with a 2.45 ERA. The diminuitive 5 foot 6 inch Shantz stayed in Pinstripes for the next four seasons, gradually becoming Casey Stengel’s best reliever.

Yankee Universe’s memory of this little southpaw would be a lot brighter if the infield at old Forbes Field had been groomed more professionally. The Yankees had quickly fallen behind in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, when Bob Turley and Bill Stafford gave up four early runs to the Pirates.  Stengel then put Shantz in the game in the third inning. He pitched shutout ball until Bill Virdon’s eighth inning grounder to short caromed off a stone that shouldn’t have been there, causing it to take a crazy hop into Tony Kubek’s Adam’s apple and turn a sure double play into a rally starting infield single. If Kubek makes that play Shantz’s pitching performance would reside right up there in the pantheon of outstanding moments in Yankee history. Instead, we got a real-life reenactment of David using a stone to kill Goliath and Mazeroski’s bronze statue stands outside of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

Its also too bad Virdon didn’t hit that ball to Shantz, instead. Bobby was a seven-time Gold Glove winner during his career. Bobby was born on September 26, 1925, in Pottsown, PA. Happy 86th birthday Bobby.

Stengel and his pitching coach, Jim Turner perfected the role of spot starter during their Yankee tenures. They used Johnny Sain, Shantz, Duke Maas, Bob Turley and Jim Coates to near perfection in that dual role and each of them helped New York make it to at least one World Series. By the way, Spud Chandler and Roger Clemens were the other two pitchers who won MVP Awards and also played for the Yankees. Chandler was the only one of the three to win the award as a Yankee.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1957 NYY 11 5 .688 2.45 30 21 6 9 1 5 173.0 157 58 47 15 40 72 1.139
1958 NYY 7 6 .538 3.36 33 13 7 3 0 0 126.0 127 52 47 8 35 80 1.286
1959 NYY 7 3 .700 2.38 33 4 14 2 2 3 94.2 64 33 25 4 33 66 1.025
1960 NYY 5 4 .556 2.79 42 0 21 0 0 11 67.2 57 24 21 5 24 54 1.197
16 Yrs 119 99 .546 3.38 537 171 192 78 15 48 1935.2 1795 817 726 151 643 1072 1.260
KCA (8 yrs) 69 65 .515 3.80 220 124 55 61 11 11 1166.2 1132 535 492 95 424 566 1.334
NYY (4 yrs) 30 18 .625 2.73 138 38 48 14 3 19 461.1 405 167 140 32 132 272 1.164
STL (3 yrs) 12 10 .545 2.51 99 0 61 0 0 15 154.1 114 56 43 15 44 129 1.024
PIT (1 yr) 6 3 .667 3.32 43 6 16 2 1 2 89.1 91 38 33 5 26 61 1.310
PHI (1 yr) 1 1 .500 2.25 14 0 3 0 0 0 32.0 23 10 8 1 6 18 0.906
CHC (1 yr) 0 1 .000 5.56 20 0 9 0 0 1 11.1 15 7 7 2 6 12 1.853
HOU (1 yr) 1 1 .500 1.31 3 3 0 1 0 0 20.2 15 4 3 1 5 14 0.968
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/26/2013.

September 25 – Happy Birthday David Weathers

weathersDavid Weathers made his big league debut in 1991 as a 20-year-old Toronto Blue Jay right-hander. The native of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee started out as a reliever, switched to starting when he was traded to the Marlins in 1993 and then went back to the bullpen permanently after he pitched poorly in his first four starts with the Yankees three seasons later.

In fact, he pitched pretty horribly for New York during both of the regular seasons he wore the pinstripes but he stepped up big time during the 1996 postseason. He got wins in both the ALDS and ALCS that year and pitched a total of eight innings of scoreless ball between the two. Joe Torre then used Weathers in Games 1, 4 and 6 of that year’s World Series against the Braves and he gave up only a single run. Given the fact that Yankee owner George Steinbrenner had publicly criticized the reliever after his poor start in the regular season that year, there’s no doubt Weathers’ fall ball heroics were the only reason he remained in the Yankees’ bullpen plans for 1997. Unfortunately, he got off to an even worse start that year and this time Steinbrenner got his wish. Weathers was traded to the Indians in early June of 1997 for outfielder Chad Curtis.

After leaving the Bronx, Weathers just kept pitching and pitching and pitching, going from Cleveland to Cincinnati, to Milwaukee, to the Cubs, back to New York with the Mets, and then return trips to the Reds and Marlins. In all he pitched in over 900 games before his career ended in 2009 and in 2007, his stick-to-it-ness paid off when he was made the Reds closer and saved 33 games.

Weathers was born on the very same day as this Hall-of-Fame Yankee shortstop, this former Yankee reliever/pitching coach and also with Robinson Cano’s predecessor as Yankee starting second baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1996 NYY 0 2 .000 9.35 11 4 1 0 0 0 17.1 23 19 18 1 14 13 2.135
1997 NYY 0 1 .000 10.00 10 0 3 0 0 0 9.0 15 10 10 1 7 4 2.444
19 Yrs 73 88 .453 4.25 964 69 304 0 0 75 1376.1 1432 711 650 133 604 976 1.479
CIN (6 yrs) 22 27 .449 3.97 341 9 157 0 0 61 398.2 388 188 176 39 164 283 1.385
FLA (5 yrs) 17 22 .436 5.16 105 55 11 0 0 0 359.0 425 227 206 33 159 216 1.627
MIL (5 yrs) 18 17 .514 3.53 237 0 71 0 0 7 298.2 282 129 117 30 120 223 1.346
NYM (3 yrs) 12 12 .500 3.22 180 0 42 0 0 7 198.2 197 82 71 17 91 161 1.450
NYY (2 yrs) 0 3 .000 9.57 21 4 4 0 0 0 26.1 38 29 28 2 21 17 2.241
TOR (2 yrs) 1 0 1.000 5.50 17 0 4 0 0 0 18.0 20 12 11 2 19 16 2.167
CLE (1 yr) 1 2 .333 7.56 9 1 2 0 0 0 16.2 23 14 14 2 8 14 1.860
CHC (1 yr) 1 1 .500 3.18 28 0 4 0 0 0 28.1 28 10 10 3 9 20 1.306
HOU (1 yr) 1 4 .200 4.78 26 0 9 0 0 0 32.0 31 20 17 5 13 26 1.375
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/25/2013.

September 24 – Happy Birthday Dixie Walker

What I love about writing this Blog are the things I learn about Yankee history that I didn’t know. Today’s post offers an excellent example of that. If not for a collision at home plate and some bad knees, Joe DiMaggio might never have been a Yankee and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Dixie “The People’s Cherce” Walker would probably have been the guy who replaced him.

The collision at home plate took place between Dixie and a Chicago White Sox catcher named Charley Berry during Walker’s 1933 rookie season with the Yankees. Earlier that year, Walker had been knocked down twice in the same game by a Chicago pitcher. After he got up from the ground after the second brushback, Walker told Berry he’d be coming in hard at home the next chance he got. Sure enough, later that same year Dusty found himself rounding third and bearing down on Berry. There were three problems for Dusty with this scenario. Berry outweighed Dusty by ten pounds, he was wearing protective catcher’s gear, and he knew Walker was coming to get him. With the element of surprise gone, Berry braced himself for what was a violent collision at the plate. Not only did Berry hold onto the ball but it was Dusty who ended up getting injured on the play, suffering a separated shoulder that would keep getting dislocated for the rest of the outfielder’s years in the Yankee organization.

Fred Walker was born in Villa Rica, Georgia on September 24, 1910. His Dad had been a pitcher with the Senators who went 25-31 during his four years in the big leagues. His Father, who’s real first name had been Ewart, had thankfully been given the nickname Dixie and the son inherited it. The Walker family had baseball in its blood. Dusty Sr.’s brother Ernie had been an outfielder with the Browns and Dusty’s own kid brother, Harry, would one day win an NL Batting title and later become one of the great hitting instructors in the history of the game.

The Yankees had purchased Dusty Walker’s contract from a minor league team in 1930. For the next three years, he tore up minor league pitching at every level and the Yankees front office took notice. With Babe Ruth growing older and ornery, New York needed to groom his replacement and by 1933, the prime candidate for that role had become Walker. He was given his first real chance to show what he could do at the big league level in 1933. Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy played his rookie in center field and often batted him lead-off. Walker was just 22-years-old at the time and responded with a strong season. In 98 games of action, he hit .274 and proved his left-handed swing was well-suited for Yankee Stadium by drilling 15 home runs and driving in 51. But he also tore up that shoulder and McCarthy had little respect or use for players who would not play hurt. Knowing that, Walker tried to play through his injury, which only exasperated his condition. He could no longer throw the ball and if you played center field for a big league club you had to be able to throw the ball.

As Walker tried to play through his shoulder problems in the Minors, the Yankee front office began taking notice of this DiMaggio kid playing out in San Francisco. He had put together a 61-game hitting streak in the Pacific Coast League but most big league teams were leery of him because he had suffered some knee injuries and the rumor was, he could not stay healthy. The Yankee’s minor league development guy was the tight-fisted genius, George Weiss. With few other suitors to compete against, Weiss was able to purchase the future Yankee Clipper’s contract for just $25,000 and as soon as he did, Walker was no longer the chosen one to replace Ruth as the next Yankee franchise outfielder.

The Yankees then traded Dixie to the White Sox where he once again dislocated that bum shoulder. That’s when it was determined that surgery was Walker’s only option and in what was a pretty experimental procedure back then, a bone graft was done to rebuild a chip in his shoulder and from that point on in his career, it never dislocated again. He hit .302 for the White Sox in 1937. He got traded to Detroit the following season and hit .308 in MoTown. But he hurt his knee while playing for the Tigers and when Detroit’s front office told him he needed another operation, Walker refused and was sold to the Dodgers.

Dixie would spend the next nine seasons becoming the star outfielder for “Dem Bums.” He would average .311 during that time and win the 1944 NL Batting title in the process. Dodger fans adored him until he threatened to not play if Jackie Robinson was made his Brooklyn teammate. His prejudice got him banished to Pittsburgh, where he played out his career and retired after the 1949 season.

Walker shares his September 24th birthday with former Yankee pitcher Jeff Karstens and former Yankee DH, Erik Soderholm.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1931 NYY 2 10 10 1 3 2 0 0 1 0 0 4 .300 .300 .500 .800
1933 NYY 98 359 328 68 90 15 7 15 51 2 26 28 .274 .330 .500 .830
1934 NYY 17 19 17 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .118 .167 .118 .284
1935 NYY 8 13 13 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 .154 .154 .231 .385
1936 NYY 6 21 20 3 7 0 2 1 5 1 1 3 .350 .381 .700 1.081
18 Yrs 1905 7670 6740 1037 2064 376 96 105 1023 59 817 325 .306 .383 .437 .820
BRO (9 yrs) 1207 5094 4492 666 1395 274 56 67 725 44 539 185 .311 .386 .441 .827
NYY (5 yrs) 131 422 388 75 104 18 9 16 58 3 28 39 .268 .319 .485 .803
PIT (2 yrs) 217 677 589 65 180 23 4 3 72 1 78 29 .306 .387 .374 .760
DET (2 yrs) 170 704 608 114 187 31 11 10 62 9 80 40 .308 .389 .444 .833
CHW (2 yrs) 180 773 663 117 198 30 16 9 106 2 92 32 .299 .385 .433 .818
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/24/2013.

September 23 -Happy Birthday Woody Woodward

woodwardHis full name is William Frederick Woodward and he was born in Miami, Florida on this date in 1942. After playing two years of college ball at Florida State he was drafted by the then Milwaukee Braves in 1963 and made his Major League debut that same September. He would spend the next eight seasons as mostly a utility middle infielder, first with the Braves and then, after a June 1968 trade, with Cincinnati. He was pretty much one of those good-fielding, weak-hitting guys who used to regularly play the positions between first and third for most Major League clubs back then. His lifetime batting average was .236 and he hit just a single home run during his playing days, a two-run shot off his ex-Atlanta teammate, Ron Reed, while he was playing for the Reds in 1970. As it turned out, that home run would not be the biggest shock of his career. That happened in 1971, during a game in LA against the Dodgers, when a 10 pound bag of flour dropped out of the sky and landed just a few feet away from where Woodward was standing at shortstop.

After hanging up his spikes, Woodward eventually became head coach of Florida State, where he oversaw four very successful seasons of Seminole baseball. He then accepted the assistant GM position with the Reds in 1981 and in 1985, George Steinbrenner hired him to serve as an assistant to then Yankee GM, Clyde King. Those were the days Steinbrenner was firing his GMs more frequently than the Kardashian girls use a mirror. In 1987, it became Woodward’s turn to take the job. He lasted in it for about a year. During his tenure, Lou Piniella was the Yankee field manager and he’d often meet with Woodward to discuss the team’s personnel needs. One day, Sweet Lou asked Woody if George Steinbrenner was as rough on Yankee GMs as he was on his managers. In response, Woodward opened his desk drawer to show Piniella it was filled with prescription drugs and antacids.  There were probably times during his days working for “the Boss” that old Woody wished that bag of flour that fell from the heavens sixteen years earlier had hit him square in the head.

During his single year in the job, his trades brought Rick Rhoden, Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante, Ron Romanick, Alan Mills, Randy Velarde, Mark Slas and Bill Gullickson to the Bronx and his most notable draft choice was the outfielder, Gerald Williams. Steinbrenner then replaced him with Lou Piniella and a few years later, Woodward became GM of the Mariners, where he traded for Randy Johnson, drafted Alex Rodriguez, Brett Boone, and Raul Ibanez, hired his buddy Lou Piniella as manager and made Seattle one of the better teams in baseball. He  still works for the Mariner organization as a part time scout.

Woody shares his birthday with this Yankee pitcher.

September 22 – Happy Birthday Urban Shocker

This Cleveland, Ohio native started his big league pitching career as a Yankee in 1916 and pitched well enough to go 12-8 with a 2.62 ERA over the course of his first two seasons. At Manager Miller Huggins’ urging, New York than included the right-hander in a package of players they sent to the Browns in January of 1918 for second baseman Del Pratt and Hall of Fame hurler, Eddie Plank. At the time the deal was made Plank was at the end of his career and he never pitched a game for the Yankees. Pratt gave New York three decent seasons but it was Shocker who proved to be the gem in that transaction. He became a four-time twenty game winner for the Browns that included a league-leading 27 victories in 1921. He also became a thorn in Huggins side as a Yankee killer who was particularly effective against the great Babe Ruth. Seven years after he left New York, again at Huggins urging, the Yankees got him back and Urban finished his big league career in pinstripes. What no one knew at the time of his return except Shocker and a few of his close friends was that the pitcher was slowly dying of heart disease. So when he won 49 games during his three-plus season return tour of duty in the Big Apple, it was in fact a super-human effort, that included a 19-11 record in 1926 and an 18-6 record for the Murderer’s Row team of 1927.

He was too weak to make it to the Yankees 1928 spring training and when he did rejoin the club, he collapsed while pitching batting practice in Chicago. By September of that same year, Shocker was dead at the age of just 38 years old. His lifetime record was 187 and 117 and his record in pinstripes, 61-37. But that 18-6 effort when his heart was literally turning to stone during the 1927 season will forever remain one of the most remarkable achievements by a pitcher in baseball history.

Shocker wasn’t the only Yankee born on this date to enjoy consecutive twenty-win seasons as a big league pitcher. In fact, this Hall of Famer had two separate three-season streaks of twenty or more wins and enjoyed a total of seven during his 13-year career. You can find out who he is by clicking here. This former Yankee catcher was also born on September 22nd.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1916 NYY 4 3 .571 2.62 12 9 3 4 1 0 82.1 67 25 24 2 32 43 1.202
1917 NYY 8 5 .615 2.61 26 13 6 7 0 1 145.0 124 59 42 5 46 68 1.172
1925 NYY 12 12 .500 3.65 41 30 7 15 2 2 244.1 278 108 99 17 58 74 1.375
1926 NYY 19 11 .633 3.38 41 32 7 18 0 2 258.1 272 113 97 16 71 59 1.328
1927 NYY 18 6 .750 2.84 31 27 1 13 2 0 200.0 207 86 63 8 41 35 1.240
1928 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 2.0 3 0 0 0 0 0 1.500
13 Yrs 187 117 .615 3.17 412 317 72 200 28 25 2681.2 2709 1131 945 130 657 983 1.255
SLB (7 yrs) 126 80 .612 3.19 260 206 47 143 23 20 1749.2 1758 740 620 82 409 704 1.239
NYY (6 yrs) 61 37 .622 3.14 152 111 25 57 5 5 932.0 951 391 325 48 248 279 1.286
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2013.